Isaiah 40:6
The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field:
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(6) The voice said, Cry.—Literally, A voice saith, Cry. The questioner (“and one said”) is probably the prophet himself, asking what he is to proclaim. The truth which he is to enforce thus solemnly is the ever-recurring contrast between the transitoriness of man and the eternity of God and of His word, taking that term in its highest and widest sense. Two points of interest may be noted: (1) that this is another parallelism with Job (Job 14:2); (2) the naturalness of the thought in one who, like Isaiah, was looking back, as Moses looked (Psalm 90:5-6) in extreme old age upon the generations whom he had survived, and forward to the fall of mighty monarchies one after another. The marginal references show how dominant the thought is in the mind of Isaiah. Isaiah himself had uttered it in Isaiah 2:22.

Isaiah 40:6-8. The voice said, Cry — Rather, A voice; for it is not the voice last mentioned, which cried in the wilderness, that is intended, but the voice of God, who (Isaiah 40:1) said, Comfort my people. Having, with a view to comfort them, commissioned his prophet to foretel glorious and wonderful things, which he was determined to do for them, he here commands him to assure them of the certainty of these things, by representing the vast difference between the nature, word, and work of men, and those of God. All that men are or have, yea, their highest accomplishments, are but like the grass, or flower of the field, weak and vanishing, soon nipped and brought to nothing: but God’s word is like himself, immutable and irresistible: and, therefore, as the mouth of the Lord, and not of man, had spoken this, as was said Isaiah 40:5, so they ought not to doubt but it would be fulfilled in due time. The passage first refers to the deliverance from Babylon, and imports both that the power of man, if it should set itself to oppose that deliverance, was not to be feared, for it should be as grass before the word, that is, before the purpose and promise of the Lord; should soon wither and come to nothing; and if it should favour, and endeavour to promote the deliverance, it was not to be confided in, for it was still but as grass, compared with the Lord’s word, the only firm foundation for men to build their hopes upon. The words are still more applicable to the salvation of the gospel, the salvation from the power of Satan, sin, and death: with respect either to the preventing or effecting this, the wisdom, or power, or merit of man, is but as grass, or a flower of the grass; weak, and frail, and fading, and neither to be trusted in nor feared. When God is about to work deliverance for his people, he will have them to be taken off from depending upon creatures which would fail their expectation; for he will not allow any creature to be a rival with him for the confidence and hope of his people. As it is his word only that shall stand for ever, so on that word only must our faith stand. St. Peter applies this passage to the salvation effected for God’s spiritual Israel, and by this word of our God which shall stand for ever, he understands that word of the gospel which is preached to us, and by which we are regenerated and purified. See 1 Peter 1:23-25. The grass withereth, &c., because the Spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it — Rather, the wind of the Lord, as רוח יהוהis with equal propriety translated, and undoubtedly here signifies; which Bishop Lowth justly observes, “is a Hebraism, meaning no more than a strong wind;” adding, “It is well known, that a hot wind in the East at once destroys every green thing.” See note on Psalm 103:16. Surely, the people is grass — Or, this people, as העםmay be properly rendered, namely, the Jews no less than the Gentiles. But the word of our God shall stand for ever — Whatsoever God hath said shall infallibly be verified, and come to pass. And particularly the glad tidings of salvation by Christ, published in the ministry of the gospel, and received by true faith, shall be confirmed and established, and be a solid foundation for the confidence and hope of the people of God to rest on in all ages.

40:1-11 All human life is a warfare; the Christian life is the most so; but the struggle will not last always. Troubles are removed in love, when sin is pardoned. In the great atonement of the death of Christ, the mercy of God is exercised to the glory of his justice. In Christ, and his sufferings, true penitents receive of the Lord's hand double for all their sins; for the satisfaction Christ made by his death was of infinite value. The prophet had some reference to the return of the Jews from Babylon. But this is a small event, compared with that pointed out by the Holy Ghost in the New Testament, when John the Baptist proclaimed the approach of Christ. When eastern princes marched through desert countries, ways were prepared for them, and hinderances removed. And may the Lord prepare our hearts by the teaching of his word and the convictions of his Spirit, that high and proud thoughts may be brought down, good desires planted, crooked and rugged tempers made straight and softened, and every hinderance removed, that we may be ready for his will on earth, and prepared for his heavenly kingdom. What are all that belongs to fallen man, or all that he does, but as the grass and the flower thereof! And what will all the titles and possessions of a dying sinner avail, when they leave him under condemnation! The word of the Lord can do that for us, which all flesh cannot. The glad tidings of the coming of Christ were to be sent forth to the ends of the earth. Satan is the strong man armed; but our Lord Jesus is stronger; and he shall proceed, and do all that he purposes. Christ is the good Shepherd; he shows tender care for young converts, weak believers, and those of a sorrowful spirit. By his word he requires no more service, and by his providence he inflicts no more trouble, than he will strengthen them for. May we know our Shepherd's voice, and follow him, proving ourselves his sheep.The voice said - Or rather 'a voice.' Isaiah represents himself here again as hearing a voice. The word 'the' introduced in our translation, mars the sense, inasmuch as it leads to the supposition that it was the voice of the same person or crier referred to in Isaiah 40:3. But it is different. That was the voice of a crier or herald, proclaiming that a way was to be open in the desert. This is introduced for a different purpose. It is to proclaim distinctly that while everything else was fading and transitory, the promise of God was firm and secure. Isaiah therefore, represents himself as hearing a voice requiring the prophets (so the Chaldee) to make a proclamation. An inquiry was at once made, What should be the nature of the proclamation? The answer was, that all flesh was grass, etc. He had Isaiah 40:3-5 introduced a herald announcing that the way was to be prepared for their return. He now introduces another voice with a distinct message to the people, that God was faithful, and that his promises would not fail. A voice, a command is heard, requiring those whose duty it was, to make proclamation. The voice of God; the Spirit speaking to the prophets, commanded them to cry.

And he said - Lowth and Noyes read this, 'And I said.' The Septuagint and the Vulgate read it also in this manner, in the first person. Two manuscripts examined by Kennicott also read it in the first person. Houbigant, Hensler, and Doderlin adopt this reading. But the authority is not sufficient to justify a change in the Hebrew text. The Syriac and Chaldee read it as it is in the present Hebrew text, in the third person. The sense is, that the person, or prophet to whom the command came to make proclamation, made answer, 'What shall be the nature of my proclamation?' It is equivalent to saying, 'It was answered;' or if Isaiah is the person to whom the voice is represented as coming, it means that he answered; and is, therefore, equivalent to the reading in the Septuagint and Vulgate, and adopted by Lowth. This is the probable supposition, that Isaiah represents himself as hearing the voice, and as expressing a willingness to make proclamation, but as waiting to know what he was to proclaim.

All flesh - This is the answer; or this is what he was to proclaim. The general design or scope of the answer was, that he was to proclaim that the promise of Yahweh was secure and firm Isaiah 40:8, and that therefore God would certainly come to deliver them. To make this more impressive by way of contrast, he states that all people are weak and feeble like the grass that is soon withered. The expression does not refer particularly to the Jews in Babylon, or to any single nation or class of people, but to all people, in all places, and at all times. All princes, nobles, and monarchs; all armies and magistrates are like grass, and will soon pass away. On the one hand, they would be unable to accomplish what was needful to be done in the deliverance of the people; and on the other, their oppressors had no power to continue their bondage, since they were like grass, and must soon pass away. But Yahweh was ever-enduring, and was able to fulfill all his purposes.

Is grass - It is as feeble, weak, and as easily consumed as the grass of the field. A similar sentiment is found in Psalm 103:15-16 :

As for man, his days are as grass;

As a flower of the field so he flourisheth;

For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone,

And the place thereof shall know it no more.

See also James 1:10-11. The passage in Isaiah is evidently quoted by Peter, 1 Peter 1:24-25 : 'All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: but the word of the Lord endureth forever; and this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you' - a passage which proves that Isaiah had reference to the times of the Messiah in the place before us.

And all the goodliness thereof - The word rendered 'goodliness' (חסד chesed) denotes properly, kindness, love, goodwill, mercy, favor. Here it is evidently used in the sense of elegance, comeliness, beauty. The Septuagint renders it: δόξα doxa, and so does Peter 1 Peter 1:24. Applied to grass, or to herbs, it denotes the flower, the beauty, the comeliness. Applied to man, it means that which makes him comely and vigorous - health, energy, beauty, talent, wisdom. His vigor is soon gone; his beauty fades; his wisdom ceases; and he falls, like the flower, to the dust. The idea is, that the plans of man must be temporary; that all that appears great in him must be like the flower of the field; but that Yahweh endures, and his plans reach from age to age, and will certainly be accomplished. This important truth was to be proclaimed, that the people might be induced not to trust in man, but put their confidence in the arm of God.

6. The voice—the same divine herald as in Isa 40:3.

he—one of those ministers or prophets (see on [778]Isa 40:1) whose duty it was, by direction of "the voice," to "comfort the Lord's afflicted people with the promises of brighter days."

All flesh is grass—The connection is, "All human things, however goodly, are transitory: God's promises alone steadfast" (Isa 40:8, 15, 17, 23, 24); this contrast was already suggested in Isa 40:5, "All flesh … the mouth of the Lord." 1Pe 1:24, 25 applies this passage distinctly to the gospel word of Messiah (compare Joh 12:24; Jas 1:10).

The voice said: God speaks unto his prophets or ministers.

He said, What shall I cry: the prophet desires to know God’s mind, and his message.

All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: the prophet having foretold glorious and wonderful things which God had declared and determined to do, and suspecting that men would hardly believe them, he confirmeth their faith and the certainty of the thing in this and the two next verses, by representing to their minds the vast difference between the nature, and word, and work of men and of God. All that men are or have, yea, their highest accomplishments, are but like the grass or flower of the field weak and vanishing, soon nipped and brought to nothing; but God’s word is like himself, immutable and irresistible; and therefore as the mouth of the Lord, and not of man, hath spoken these things as was said, Isaiah 40:5, so doubt not but they shall be fulfilled.

The voice said, cry,.... Not the same voice as in Isaiah 40:3, nor the voice of an angel, as Aben Ezra; but a voice from the Lord, as Jarchi; the voice of prophecy, says Kimchi; it is the Lord's voice to the prophet, or rather to any and every Gospel minister, giving them an order to prophesy and preach, without which they cannot preach regularly and lawfully; it is the same as, "go, teach all nations", &c. preach the Gospel to every creature, &c. Matthew 28:19,

and he said, what shall I cry? publish, proclaim, or preach? for a minister of the Gospel is to preach not out of his own heart, or of his own head, or what is of his own devising and framing, but what is agreeable to the mind of Christ, as revealed in his word; he is to speak according to the oracles of God, the proportion and analogy of faith; he is to inquire there, and of Christ, what he shall say. The Targum is,

"the voice of him that saith, prophesy; and he answered and said, what shall I prophesy?''

The reply is,

all flesh is grass; declare the frailty and mortality of men; which some think is mentioned, to increase the wonder of Christ's incarnation, after prophesied of, as the forerunner of it is before; that Christ should condescend to take upon him such frail mortal flesh; that he should become flesh, and be manifested in it: or rather this is to be said, to put men in mind and to prepare them to think of another world, and how they shall appear before the judgment seat; seeing, if they have not a better righteousness than their own, and except they are born again, they shall neither see nor enter into the kingdom of heaven; which is one of the first things to be published in the Gospel ministry; as also how weak, impotent, and insufficient, men are, to that which is good, which may be meant by this phrase; being as weak as a spire of grass, not able to do any good actions, much less to fulfil the law, or to regenerate themselves, renew their hearts, or cleanse their natures: and this must be said, to abate the pride of men; to show the necessity of divine power in regeneration; to instruct men to seek for the grace of God, as to convert them, so to help and assist them in all they do; and to direct them to ascribe all they have, and are, to the grace of God; to this purpose the Apostle Peter quotes this passage, 1 Peter 1:23. It may be applied to the ordinances of the legal dispensation, and all the privileges of it, which are said to be carnal; and trusting in them was trusting in the flesh, Philippians 3:4, Hebrews 9:10, these were weak and insufficient to justify, sanctify, and save, and were not to continue:

and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field; all the goodliness and glory of man; all that is excellent and valuable in him, or belonging to him, Or that is thought to be so, his riches, honours, strength, beauty, wisdom, and knowledge; yea, all his seeming holiness and righteousness; which are all fading and perishing, like a gay flower, which appears lovely for a while, and on a sudden falls off, or is cropped, or trampled upon; to which a flower of the field is more liable than that of the garden. This may be applied to the splendour of the legal dispensation, which is done away by a more excellent glory taking place, 2 Corinthians 3:10.

The {i} voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all its {k} beauty is as the flower of the field:

(i) The voice of God which spoke to the prophet Isaiah.

(k) Meaning, all man's wisdom and natural powers, Jas 1:10, 1Pe 1:24.

6. The voice said, Cry] Render (as before) Hark! one saying, Cry. “Cry” here evidently means “prophesy” as in Isaiah 40:2, ch. Isaiah 44:7, Isaiah 61:1 f.; Jeremiah 7:27. Hence the response, and one said (R.V.) will naturally come from a prophet, the call being from the same quarter as in Isaiah 40:3. There is no need to suppose that an ideal person is meant, the most probable interpretation is that it is the prophet himself who replies to the voice. It is better, therefore, to change the vowels and read with LXX. and Vulg. “and I said”; in spite of the fact that the author usually keeps his own personality in the background. The other reading does not sufficiently express the distinction between the call and the answer; hence A.V. seems to refer both to the same speaker.

all flesh is grass] The answer to the question, “What shall I cry?” Cf. ch. Isaiah 37:27; Job 8:12; Job 14:2; Psalm 37:2; Psalm 103:15, and esp. Psalm 90:5 f. goodliness] The Heb. word is nowhere else used in this sense. It signifies “lovingkindness” or “grace” (of God to men). The transition from the one meaning to the other is illustrated by the Greek χάρις, and there is no reason to suspect the text.

6–8. The second voice proclaims the double truth: all earthly might is transitory, the word of God is eternal. Logically the section interrupts the connexion between Isaiah 40:5 and Isaiah 40:9, and is itself a prelude to Isaiah 40:12 ff. But to transpose Isaiah 40:6-11, as is done by the two commentators just named, is hardly advisable; logical sequence is not the principle on which the book is arranged.

Verse 6. - The voice said, Cry; rather, a voice of else that sayeth, Cry. It is a second voice, distinct from that of ver. 3, that now reaches the prophet's ear - a voice responded to by another. The speakers seem to be angels, who contrast the perishable nature of man with the enduringness and unchangingness of God. The point of their discourse is that "the Word of the Lord endureth for ever" (ver. 8), and therefore the preceding promises (vers. 2, 5) are sure. And he said; rather, and one said. A second voice answered the first, and asked what the proclamation was to be. In reply its terms were given. All flesh is grass (comp. Isaiah 37:27; and see also Job 5:25; Psalm 90:5; Psalm 92:7; Psalm 103:15). The goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field. So Ephraim was compared in ch. 28:1 to "a fading flower." The similitude is found also in Job 14:2 and in Psalm 103:15. Homer approaches the idea in his well-known simile, Οἵη περ φύλλων γενεὴ τοιήδε καὶ ἀνδρῶν ('Iliad,' 6:146). Isaiah 40:6The prophet now hears a second voice, and then a third, entering into conversation with it. "Hark, one speaking, Cry! And he answers, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all its beauty as the flower of the field. Grass is withered, flower faded: for the breath of Jehovah has blown upon it. Surely grass is the people; grass withereth, flower fadeth: yet the word of our God will stand for ever." A second voice celebrates the divine word of promise in the face of the approaching fulfilment, and appoints a preacher of its eternal duration. The verb is not ואמר (et dixi, lxx, Vulg.), but ואמר; so that the person asking the question is not the prophet himself, but an ideal person, whom he has before him in visionary objectiveness. The appointed theme of his proclamation is the perishable nature of all flesh (Isaiah 40:5 πᾶσα σάρξ, here πᾶσα ἡ σάρξ), and, on the other hand, the imperishable nature of the word of God. Men living in the flesh are universally impotent, perishing, limited; God, on the contrary (Isaiah 31:3), is the omnipotent, eternal, all-determining; and like Himself, so is His word, which, regarded as the vehicle and utterance of His willing and thinking, is not something separate from Himself, and therefore is the same as He. Chasdō is the charm or gracefulness of the outward appearance (lxx; 1 Peter 1:24, δόξα: see Schott on the passage, James 1:11, εὐπρέπεια). The comparison instituted with grass and flower recals Isaiah 37:27 and Job 8:12, and still more Psalm 90:5-6, and Job 14:2. Isaiah 40:7 describes what happens to the grass and flower. The preterites, like the Greek aoristus gnomicus (cf., Isaiah 26:10), express a fact of experience sustained by innumerable examples: exaruit gramen, emarcuit flos;

(Note: נבל has munach here and in Isaiah 40:8 attached to the penultimate in all correct texts (hence milel, on account of the monosyllable which follows), and mehteg on the tzere to sustain the lengthening.)

consequently the כּי which follows is not hypothetical (granting that), but explanatory of the reason, viz., "because rūăch Jehovah hath blown upon it," i.e., the "breath" of God the Creator, which pervades the creation, generating life, sustaining life, and destroying life, and whose most characteristic elementary manifestation is the wind. Every breath of wind is a drawing of the breath of the whole life of nature, the active indwelling principle of whose existence is the rūăch of God. A fresh v. ought to commence now with אכן. The clause העם חציר אכן is genuine, and thoroughly in Isaiah's style, notwithstanding the lxx, which Gesenius and Hitzig follow. עכן is not equivalent to a comparative כן (Ewald, 105, a), but is assuring, as in Isaiah 45:15; Isaiah 49:4; Isaiah 53:4; and hâ‛âm (the people) refers to men generally, as in Isaiah 42:5. The order of thought is in the form of a triolet. The explanation of the striking simile commences with 'âkhēn (surely); and then in the repetition of the words, "grass withereth, flower fadeth," the men are intended, resemble the grass and the flower. Surely grass is the human race; such grass withereth and such flower fadeth, but the word of our God (Jehovah, the God of His people and of sacred history) yâqūm le‛ōlâm, i.e., it rises up without withering or fading, and endures for ever, fulfilling and verifying itself through all times. This general truth refers, in the preset instance, to the word of promise uttered by the voice in the desert. If the word of God generally has an eternal duration, more especially is this the case with the word of the parousia of God the Redeemer, the word in which all the words of God are yea and amen. The imperishable nature of this word, however, has for its dark foil the perishable nature of all flesh, and all the beauty thereof. The oppressors of Israel are mortal, and their chesed with which they impose and bribe is perishable; but the word of God, with which Israel can console itself, preserves the fields, and ensures it a glorious end to its history. Thus the seal, which the first crier set upon the promise of Jehovah's speedy coming, is inviolable; and the comfort which the prophets of God are to bring to His people, who have now been suffering so long, is infallibly sure.

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